File:Camille Clere Verwundet.jpgThe persecution of Christians has begun.

If you have read anything here, you might think I was being sarcastic, but I am not. Fox News reports that an army chaplain’s assistant who posted on her facebook page “calling homosexuality a sin”. The soldier, who asked not to be identified, said her commander ordered her to either remove the Facebook message or face a reduction in rank and pay.

Arrogating to myself the luxury of pacifism, I could go on about “army chaplains”- how can they preach on “Thou shalt not kill”, leave alone “turn the other cheek”. But soldiers are entitled as anyone else to the consolations of religion. The woman stated her understanding of her religion, and a chaplain’s assistant should be free to do that. She should not be free to create a “hostile and antagonistic” environment for gay soldiers: but was she doing that? Vernon Scannell is our witness:

There’s only two men in this mob-
And this you ought to know-
Who can catch pox from toilet seats:
The chaplain and M.O.

Mocking toleration at best is the response I would expect from trained killers to chaplains. The atmosphere of hostile antagonism goes the other way. The “Military law enforcement specialist” deals with Christianity by draining it of love: gay people are like Nazis, he says. Perhaps an atmosphere of hostile antagonism is common in the army, along with the cameraderie. Bertholt Brecht: is missing Jimmy is dead
and George went crazy shooting
But blood is blood and dead is dead
And the army is still recruiting.

I hope, therefore, that the officer disciplining this hapless chaplain’s assistant got it wrong, and that the hostile antagonism was towards her and her ridiculous belief; and that she was incapable of inciting hostility to the gay soldiers. Bullying demands that you think the way I do are only dangerous or oppressive if they might enforce obedience, rather than scorn.

I can shrug off what she says, and hope that my disgust will make her fearful (like the writer in “Free Republic”). Her only response can be to move closer to James Nayler: There is a spirit which I feel that delights to do no evil, nor to revenge any wrong, but delights to endure all things, in hope to enjoy its own in the end. Its hope is to outlive all wrath and contention, and to weary out all exaltation and cruelty, or whatever is of a nature contrary to itself.

That officer, increasing the hostility towards her, has persecuted the poor chaplain’s assistant- I hope. Thanks to Michele.

What proportion of the population is gay? 1.5% of adults in the UK identified themselves as gay, says the ONS; but 2.7% of 16-24 year olds, as opposed to 0.4% of those over 65. From which you can conclude that we all die young, or not. Less than 1% of those in Northern Ireland said they were gay, as opposed to 2.5% in London: either homosexuality is catching, or persecution in Northern Ireland prevents people from being Out. Only 94% said they were straight: some refused to answer, some gave no response. I think it likely that a high percentage of those were gay, and even some who claimed to be straight.

Added: Here is Senior Master Sergeant Phillip Monk, of the USAF, who says he was transferred for failing to punish a sergeant who had shared his religious views about homosexuality, contrary to air force policy, which bars the use of a position of authority to promote personal religious beliefs. What do you think?

Vernon Scannell

The poet Vernon Scannell was in North Africa in 1942. He was lying on the ground beside an officer, under fire. When he felt able to look around, the officer had scarpered. Scannell later found that the officer had been sent back to Blighty, to a mental hospital.

Shortly after, Scannell himself got into a lorry and started driving. Foolish, really. He did not shave, and when he was asked his business he could not give a soldierly answer, so got arrested. He was, not being an officer, sent to a prison in North Africa. Every day the men carted a huge pile of sand from one corner of the parade ground to the opposite corner. The next day, they took it back. In solitary confinement, he was given a hunk of bread in the morning. He kept some of it for later, and was disciplined for “hoarding food”.

When the authorities sought volunteers to fight in Europe among the prisoners, Scannell volunteered, and got out. He went to a training camp. There was a young man there, very gung-ho, whom Scannell gives the pseudonym Victor Denham. He was always on about how he would kill Jerries, but when the invasion came he collapsed weeping and raving, and also had to be sent home. Scannell’s opinion of him is shown in the initials he gave him.

When Scannell got home, he could not be bothered waiting for demob, so went on the run again until a general pardon in the 1950s.

Scannell’s poetry has the humour of the squaddie, trapped in a world he did not create.

What did you do in the war, Daddee?
Lots of jankers, son.

There is not a lot of respect for the officers, the transvestite brigadier, the bastards who put you on a charge. Some are hypocrites:

There’s only two men in this mob-
And this you ought to know-
Who can catch pox from toilet seats:
The Chaplain and MO.

But there is one poem of his which moves me to tears: “Sentences”, from Funeral Games. He explains that soldiers serving sentences in military prisons are officially referred to and addressed as SUS’s- Soldiers Under Sentence.

Who spiked the water at the wedding
held in the Sergeants’ Mess?
We all know who the fellow was:

And so, on for twelve verses.


Who swallowed wine and pissed out water
Couldn’t wake up when Reveille was blown,
Who screwed Colonel Jairus’s daughter
Ate ten men’s rations, all on his own,
Robbed the blind, and beat up cripples,
Flogged his donkey right to the bone?

Johnny Evans, he was the fellow,
Ended up high against the bloodshot sky,
Johnny Evans, the barrack room cowboy,
Arms stretched out like a PTI.
He, and another old Janker-wallah,
One each side of the man who cried
A loud reproach to his stone-deaf father
And promised Johnny, before he died,
A place that night in the Officers’ Mess,
He, Johnny Evans, was a soldier under sentence,

Scannell is now out of print.